From Soil to Stomach, and the contents therein…

While working at the farm, I’ve listened to a handful of books that link up well together and wanted to share here.

Hands down, the best book on growing under cover I’ve read, “The winter harvest” comes from the man who pioneered, small, intensive agriculture in America with great historical context of how growers around Paris in the 19th century created one of the most productive, intensive, urban agriculture systems in the world. Incredibly detailed with everything you need to have on your radar from techniques to philosophy. It’s a fantastic, concise, well written book.

“The Winter Harvest” –Coleman

Natural Ecosystems have multiple feedback loops and in most cases, are self-supporting. Figuring out how to incorporate farming into a natural system, instead of against it, can result in productive agricultural systems where a great deal of the work is taken care of for us by the natural system. “Teaming with Microbes” reminds us that a vast portion of that ecosystem, with billions of organisms per teaspoon we can’t even see, are there to aid the gardener by closing the loop and finding balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ critters, from the microscopic to insects and by extension in my practical experience, all the way up to the interaction between voles and snakes/bobcats. If you don’t have enough voles, you won’t have predators around to control them for you. The same thing is true on the microscopic level. Everything has a place, and finding our place in nature is critical for a balanced, productive, sustainable, farm.

“Teaming with Microbes” –Lowenfels/Lewis

The most salient image from “One Size Fits None” is that of dead cattle on the side of the road after a cattle truck highway accident which no wild animals would eat, as they came from feedlots… Just down the road, the grass fed animals who die on the range are reduced to bones by scavengers in under two weeks.

“One Size Fits None” –Anderson

“The Hidden Half of Nature” takes us into the soil and into our guts and ties together/reveals many of the political wranglings that have contributed to the massively broken and unhealthy food system in the USA, as well as a fantastic review of the science and scientists who discovered microbes. This really got my science nerd side going.

“The Hidden Half of Nature” –Montgomery/Bikle

Nicole Masters, with her fantastic New Zealand Accent, takes us on her own personal journey to health after pesticide poisoning as a child (which took a decade to diagnose) but primarily talks about soil, and the remarkable neglect of the life that it can sustain. She lays out, as plane as day, that biocides (any chemical intended to destroy life, I. E. pesticides, herbicides, fungicides) do just that–destroy life, perpetuating a dependent, downward spiral of costly chemical inputs that deplete the natural landscape and farmer’s bank accounts. Why exactly would we choose this path when we now have the science to prove, which she expertly explains in no-nonsence language, that farms and ranches are healthier and more productive when we work with nature instead of against it? A fantastic read (I listened to it twice!).

“For the Love of Soil” –Masters

Though I read this next book at least a year ago now, it’s ease of reading (well listening as I used an audio book version while hoeing at the farm) and scientific referenced examples still sticks with me. A book to eliminate the ‘germophobe’ in you.

“I Contain Multitudes:The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” –Young

And finally, a non-judgmental, non-dogmatic, fact based book on nutrition that ties into the related themes mentioned in all three books above regarding the detrimental consequences of politics and greed on our food system and how we can make choices that combat that systems negative grip on our health. Dr Greger’s sometimes over-enthusiastic delivery of his own work in audio format leaves no doubt in my mind that we can radically improve our health through our own food choices (spoiler alert: eat plants–brightly colored and spicy ones–fresh, organic , whole, un-refined plants, lots of them!).

“How Not to Die” –Greger

The Pandemic and Produce

Here are some handy resources for researching any concerns you may have regarding the food supply and COVID-19:

We’re following best practices to insure your food is safe (and you should always wash your food before eating).

Here’s a link to the seminar we participated in to review our food safety procedures:

Think you know what it takes to really get your hands clean? See if your technique measures up to World Health Organization standards with this short video:

The dangers of anthropomorphism for honey bees

Dr. David Tarpey, who I highly respect, penned a recent article comparing what we’re doing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to honey bee management practices:

While I appreciate his work and concerns, the establishment, perhaps as a result of corporate pesticide funding (see my previous post: has missed a great opportunity to promote a directed evolution approach to varroa control through queen breeding which is safer, more effective in the long run, and the right thing to do from a natural standpoint.

Here’s my response to his article:

I'm glad you mentioned seeking hygenic bees, but the treatment-first approach to varroa control with the fear mongering 'don't spread to your neighbors' and anthropomorphized comparison of human disease to the honey bee is troubling. Treating for varroa without immediate queen replacement of better genetic stock is a dangerous chemical treadmill that favors only the makers of toxic pesticides. You also didn't happen to mention that keeping genetically weak bees alive with treatments will invariably lead to the spread of weak genetics, resulting in increased varroa spread. These weak genes will not only spread to your neighbors hives, but to the feral bee population which is thriving without treatments on its own. This is a wrong headed, short term, chemical approach to an evolutionary problem--and one that will likely only be solved when everyone stops treating their bees and increases their apiary from the 30% or so hives that have genetic traits which mitigate disease and parasite resistance/tolerance naturally. If we don't allow weak colonies to die, we're exacerbating the problem we created by spreading mites and disease around the globe in the first place. Breeding and/or simply making increase from the strongest most disease free hives in your apiary is a globally proven approach to eliminating varroa management from your workload, and it's well past time we started promoting this directed evolution approach over treatments.